Syed Dastageer, a 73-year-old resident of Mysuru, Karnataka, is popularly known among locals as ‘Magic Babu.’
For more than 50 years, he has been performing magic tricks and playing music on a handmade violin on the streets of Mysuru to entertain tourists.
“My father —Syed Hussain — was also a street performer in Mysuru, and passed on his skills to me. I have been learning magic tricks from him since the day I was born, and when I was 12, he taught me how to make a violin, and eventually, I learnt how to play songs too. Though I cannot read or write, I can play various songs in Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Hindi,” says Syed.
Syed regularly performs outside the Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel, and his magic tricks range from simple card tricks to complicated ones which involve him consuming fire.
Magic Tricks and Music
Syed, who got married when he was 22, has 8 children — 5 girls, and 3 boys. While 7 of them are married and living in different places across Karnataka, the youngest daughter resides with him and his wife, in a house which was allocated to him by the government.
He is the sole breadwinner of his family, and apart from entertaining people with his magic and music skills, he also makes and sells violins.
“They are made using coconut shells, wood, and violin strings that I source locally. I can make 3 violins within 5 hours, and I sell each for a price ranging from Rs 500 to Rs.600. I have sold the violins to many people around the world who visit Mysuru,” he says.
Struggles during the lockdown
When the COVID-19 lockdown was announced, Syed’s only source of income was cut-off. Initially, he could not go outside the house to perform, but when he could go, there were no tourists to watch his performance.
“Before the lockdown, I used to earn Rs 600 every day from selling violins, and the tips tourists gave me. On some good days, I would sell 2 violins and go back home early. But, it has been 5 months since I earned anything. Performing on the streets won’t get me any income anymore,” says Syed, adding that he has been approaching everyone he knew for help to make ends meet.
Ashish Kumar, the Senior Executive Chef at Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel has known Magic Babu for the last two years. When Syed approached him requesting help to make ends meet, Ashish and his team members pooled in some money
Ashish says, “Babu Bhai has a great talent, and every day I manage to listen to him perform at least one song. Last month he approached and explained how he has not been able to earn any money during the lockdown. He is old, and with the current situation, it was best that he stayed home. So, my team and I offered whatever help we could.”
If you wish to help Syed Dastageer and his family, here are his bank details.
Bank Name: Vijaya Bank
Branch Name: Bhogadi, Mysuru
Account Number: 141301011005990
IFSC Code: VIJB0001413
Image courtesy: Syed Dastageer
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)